Born in 1931, Dr. Christine Downing has nurtured a long career as a scholar of religion, depth psychology, feminist studies, and mythology. She was the first married woman to graduate from Swarthmore College, earning her degree in literature, and the first woman to earn a doctorate from Drew University, writing her dissertation on the German philosopher and religious scholar Martin Buber. In 1963, Dr. Downing began her long and renowned teaching career in the Religious Department of Rutgers University. In 1974 she moved to San Diego State University, where she would teach for eighteen years, ten of which she also chaired the Religious Studies Department. Also in 1974, Dr. Downing achieved yet another “first,” becoming the first woman president of the American Academy of Religion, delivering her presidential address on “Sigmund Freud and the Mythological Tradition.” While teaching in San Diego, she simultaneously served as a core faculty member at the California School of Professional Psychology, inspiring her to return to school for another degree, this time earning her master’s in family therapy. In 1994, Dr. Downing assisted in the development of the Mythological Studies program at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, where she continues as a core faculty member today, teaching Greek and Roman mythologies, Hebrew traditions, and Memoir. Dr. Downing has published nine books, including The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine, Myths and Mysteries of Same-Sex Love, and Preludes: Essays on the Ludic Imagination. She has also edited five collections, including The Long Journey Home: ReVisioning the Myth of Demeter and Persephone for Our Time, which we will be referencing throughout our interview today. Christine is widely acclaimed for her breadth of knowledge and her long career, and she is especially admired for her ability to blend deeply-open biographical writing with rigorous scholarship. While the personal is often explicitly excluded from the academic, Christine has forged a renowned scholarly career without eliminating herself from her discoveries, demonstrating the essential combination and entwinement of the historical and mythical with the personal experience to create insight and wisdom.
“We need images and myths through which we can see who we are and what we might become,” Christine Downing.
Special thanks to Devon Deimler for preparing the interview materials and writing for this episode, she is also a frequent advisor for Mythosophia. Devon has an M.A. in mythological studies with an emphasis in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently working on her Ph.D. dissertation. Her most recent article, Reflections on Excess: Love, Death and Eroticism in Vodoun Myth, as Guided by Georges Bataille, can be found on the website for Luvah: Journal of the Creative Imagination.